Espresso Shot Review: Golden Axe

Good morning, and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.” It’s Espresso Shot Review time! Today, I’m looking at Golden Axe for the Sega Genesis – a game I’ve never even played before, surprisingly enough. I was introduced to it from a guest review on The Well-Red Mage’s blog and I decided to look into it myself. How did it fare in my eyes? Read on and find out!


Introduction

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Golden Axe is a side-scrolling, beat-em-up/ hack-and-slash action game. First introduced in 1989 in arcades, it was ported to the Sega Genesis (or Megadrive) and Master System of that same year. It’s been a part of several compilation titles, such as the SEGA Smash Pack and Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection and is presently part of the SEGA Forever collection of free, mobile titles available on iOS and Android.

Story

Taking place in the Conan the Barbarian-inspired land of Yuria, Golden Axe tells the story of three warriors who are tasked to save the King of the realm, his daughter and the titular Golden Axe from the Death Adder – A powerful warlord who threatens to kill the royal family and break the axe unless the people in the kingdom acknowledge him as their ruler. Each warrior however has their own motivations for defeating the Death Adder beyond saving the king and his daughter; Ax-Battler, the barbarian who wields a sword and Earth magic, seeks vengeance for his mother’s death. Gilius Thunderhead, an axe-wielding dwarf from the mines who uses Thunder magic wants the Adder’s head after his twin brother was killed by his henchmen. Finally, Tyris Flare, an Amazon warrior who specializes in longswords and Fire magic, will stop at nothing to pay back the Death Adder for the death of her parents.

It’s a pretty simple story that’s common for this era of gaming, but its nice to see that the characters also have their own reasons for fighting; it makes them look less one-dimensional and allows the player to empathize to their situation.

One complaint I have is that the in-game story doesn’t exactly match what’s listed in the instruction manual. In game, each character mentions that their friend, Alex, died in battle and that they will avenge him while saving the land. I would much rather have the game narrative to stick to the “avenging the death of loved ones,” plot instead of avenging some random dude named Alex.

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Who is this “Alex” you speak of, Battler? Aren’t you supposed to be avenging your mother?

Gameplay

Controls are simple in Golden Axe. The directional buttons move the character, the A button activates magic, the B button makes the character attack and the C button is the jump button. In addition, there are several moves that can be useful as you traverse the game. You can hit an enemy multiple times by mashing the B button, but it leaves you open from behind. If you’re in close while rapidly tapping B, you’ll pick up and throw the enemy, good for giving you some space when you’re surrounded. Double tapping left or right makes the character break into a run; hitting B while running initiates a dash attack, useful for getting the drop on an enemy. You can also use aerial attacks by jumping and hitting B while in midair. Doing a jump attack while running yields a more powerful attack that can one-shot or severely damage enemies, but it’s a bit tricky to pull off. Finally, you can use a powerful reversal attack by hitting B and C together, but it’s  hard to connect and leaves you open if you don’t.

In terms of gameplay, Ax-Battler is the most balanced in terms of strength, movement and magic, Gilius has great strength and speed but lacks in magic and Tyris’ strength lies in her magic, but lacks in physical strength and reach compared to the other two.

Each character’s magic meter has a different maximum level. Gilius maxes out at three, Ax-Battler maxes at four and Tyris maxes at six. Each level corresponds to the strength of the magic used, so, while it’s easy to max out Gilius’ magic, his strongest spell is much weaker compared to Tyris’ strongest spell. an awesome fire-breathing dragon used when her magic meter is at level six. To use magic, you’ll need to collect blue pots, which are only dropped by bag-carrying Thieves. You’ll have to smack them a few times to get the pots. You’ll sometimes run into these guys as you progress through each level, but at the end of each level you’ll enter a bonus round where you battle with at least one Blue Thief and sometimes a Green Thief who drops meat, which restores one bar of your character’s health.

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Hey! Give those back!

There are seven types of enemies, including boss characters, to be wary of, from henchmen who use maces and clubs to axe-wielding Amazonian women, skeletons who use swords and shields, giants wielding hammers and powerful, armoured knights. You can easily tell the difference in how strong they are based on their colour pallet.

They might not seem like much at first glance, but it’s advised to avoid being surrounded, because even the weakest of enemies can overpower you when they’re coming in from both sides, which happened to me quite often and resulted in me losing a lot of life. I would have liked the reversal attack to be easier to connect so I could get out of those jams without being overwhelmed. I also found that the enemies were a bit bland at times and I would have liked to see some more variety. I compare this to the TMNT 2: the Arcade Game port for the NES, where there were a TON of different flavours of enemies to fight against. I do like how the giants wielding hammers laugh at you when you’re knocked down.

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Quit laughing at me, you bastard…

Boss fights either pit you against a gauntlet of enemies, or you fight against the Death Adder himself at the very end. What’s interesting is that for the home console version of the game, they added two extra levels and a new final boss – the Death Bringer, mentor to the Death Adder.

Another feature that made the game interesting is the use of creatures as steeds. Enemies usually ride these, but they can be easily knocked off with a well-placed kick. There are two types of rideable creatures – a Chicken Legs who attacks by swiping its tail or a Dragon who can either spit fireballs or breathe a jet of fire that incinerates your foes. The creatures are really fun to use, but if you are dismounted more than three times, it runs away. A minor annoyance, but it’s fair; the creatures would have made it all to easy to beat the game.

Speaking of which, the difficulty is not too bad compared to other beat-em-ups, which is a good thing because it allows for anyone to pick up and play it without becoming too frustrated. It’s also pretty short, at about eight levels, meaning it won’t take more than a few hours to fully complete it.

Visuals

While the graphics are dated, for a game that’s almost 30 years old, they aren’t that bad looking. The playable character sprites have a fair amount of detail in them and their animations are pretty fluid.

I do like the environments, they really elicit a medieval-fantasy like feel.  I also like how there’s a day to night transition right before a boss fight, it makes the game feel more alive and the stakes more dire.

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Sunset Showdown!

In stage 4, your battles take place on the back of a giant eagle, which I though was pretty cool! Though, I had to wonder, “How does a pathway exist on an eagle?” Also, “Why are there skeletons burrowed in this poor eagle’s back?”  It somewhat didn’t make sense, but hey, who am I to complain?

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That must take some serious pruning to maintain…

I didn’t like how some of the enemies looked; again, they looked a bit bland, but from the animation standpoint, at least they didn’t move as blocky as they looked.

Sound

I found the music and sound effects to be a bit on the tinny side, but still enjoyable nonetheless. Stage 1’s music really set the tone for the game – it gave off an “I’m storming your stronghold and taking you down, if it’s the last thing I do!” kind of feel, which was pretty rad.

The death screams were somewhat hilarious, but they started to grate on me a little bit, especially after hearing my character die again and again (Beat-em ups aren’t my specialty). It didn’t stop me from enjoying the game though!

Replayability

With three characters to play as and each differing in magic, reach and speed, there are some opportunities to replay the game. The story doesn’t change for each character however – it’s still the same.

On top of the arcade mode, which you can play with two people, there is a Beginner mode, consisting of the first three stages with easier enemies, perfect for those who are either new to the series or need a refresher on how to play. Also, there is The Duel mode, where each round pits you against different types of enemies and the goal is to survive for twelve rounds. Each duel is also timed – if you don’t win in the allotted time, you lose one bar of energy.

It’s quite challenging, considering the fact that you can’t use magic at all in this mode; you’ll have to focus on weapon skills if you are to succeed. If you’re playing with two players in The Duel mode, you fight against each other instead.

Conclusion

Golden Axe’s cast of characters, use of powerful magic and rideable creatures help make the game stand out over many others in the genre. But the low variety in opponents and their blandness, coupled with the fact that it’s easy to become surrounded and a lack of a proper reversal technique hurt it in the long run. Nevertheless, it’s still a fun game to pick up and play, especially for two people!

3.5 out of 5

3.5 out of 5

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Beginner’s Mindset, Failing Forward and Starting Over: How They Relate To Gaming and Real Life

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” May today reflect the contents of your mug: filled to the brim with hot, delicious goodness!

Today, I’m going to talk about having a beginner’s mindset, failing forward and starting over. I want to talk about these because several situations have happened at my (now former) place of employment that I could have avoided if I took those three things seriously. Don’t worry though, I do have a new job lined up and I talk about it in this post.

I also feel that it’s important for mature, distinguished gamers to keep these three things in mind, whether you’re crushing it in the office, in front of the TV/PC/Handheld, etc. or wherever you are. With that said, let’s get started.


Beginner’s Mindset

Whether it’s in real life or video games, being an expert at something feels amazing. If you’re not careful though, it can really get to your head. You might either stop learning from or listening to others who are willing to teach you because you consider yourself such an expert at things, and that can cause lots of problems. I say this because that’s what happened to me at my old job. I thought I was the best at what I do, but it took two bad summers, several little mistakes that grew into huge problems and flat out pride to cut me down to size. I’m kinda glad that it happened, to be perfectly honest, because it got me to rethink what I really wanted to do with my engineering career and, after speaking with friends, family and career specialists, I’ve left my old job and am starting in a new, totally different direction in my career. I wanted to go into this new opportunity with a different mindset than I had previously; I already knew I was no expert, so I’m going to do the opposite – I’ll adopt a beginner’s mindset.

I learned about the beginner’s mindset idea after listening to an audiobook about Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the Mindfulness movement. Beginner’s mindset is one of the several behaviours he explains helps a person become more mindful of their surroundings and it was his explanation of it that inspired me to adopt it for myself.

Having a beginner’s mindset doesn’t mean to forget all that you know; it means to let go of the notion that you’re an almighty expert and to accept the fact that there’s always something more to learn in your field by listening and learning from those who are either more experienced, or from those who have a completely different perspective on the subject you’re learning about. Being an expert is good for several things but it limits your mind and makes you think that you know everything when you don’t. To have a beginner’s mindset is to embrace learning as an ongoing thing.

This doesn’t have to be limited to real life – it also applies to gaming as well. Take for example fighting and racing games; you can always try out new tactics you’ve learned from other players in versus mode and understand your character’s or opponent’s moves  better through the practice mode. In racing games you can shave off your best time and understand the track mechanics in Time Attack/Time Trial mode, or even go through the tutorial modes to brush up on and explore driving techniques you’d never think of using before.

On top of that, having a beginner’s mindset also means continually going back to basics, which can encompass many things, such as reviewing proper communication protocols between clients and colleagues, relearning how to take effective notes and regurgitating them when the situation calls for them and ensuring that checks and balances are in place to catch mistakes. In gaming, it can also mean going through basic controls and movesets, reviewing basic strategy, understanding strengths and weaknesses of things like weapons, armour or elements, playing through the tutorial levels a couple of times as a refresher or even re-reading the game’s instruction manual. Those are but a few examples; there are many more situations that can apply here.

You might be saying now, “What’s the point in all this?” Well, I look at it this way: Sometimes, after a situation in game, at work or home, or wherever has long happened, I’ll come across something so basic and obvious that I overlooked earlier and I think “Man, if I had paid attention to this basic thing earlier, I could’ve avoided that messed-up situation I encountered at home/work/in the game I’m playing. But now that I’ve reviewed it and better understand how to apply it, I’ll be ready for when that same or similar situation happens next time!” Reviewing the basics while maintaining a beginner’s mindset is something that I encourage everyone to do, whether it’s in the real world or in video games. It may help to raise your awareness of things that you may have overlooked.

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Listen to ROB64! Always practice the basics!

Sometimes though, all your best efforts will result in failure, but it’s never a bad thing. If there’s two things I learned after leaving at my last job, it’s that you should never be afraid of failure and that it’s never too late to start over.

Failing Forward and Starting Over

In a job interview I had recently, one of the questions my interviewer asked me was if I would be OK with starting over. This question was a follow up after they asked me what kinds of mistakes I made at work, whether recent or not.

Here, I sort of panicked. Job Interview 101 made me think: “What mistakes do I mention that won’t make me look bad but were negligible compared to the overall completion of the project?” So I started with something that happened some time ago in one of my first positions in my career. The fact that I don’t remember what I said now was a testament to how lame my initial answer was. So, in a moment of honesty, and trusting my instincts (Thanks Peppy), I revealed that I recently (like in the last two months) made a major design error which required me to go to the construction site, review how much work was already done with the incorrect design, return to the office to correct it and resend it back to the mechanical contractors to fix, causing a huge inconvenience for everyone involved and an resulting back charge to our company for the extra work. When the follow up was asked, I took no time in answering yes, that I would be willing to start over and relearn everything if it meant that I would succeed in my new role.

I pondered over those two questions after reading the offer letter in my inbox. To honestly admit some of my greatest mistakes was a difficult thing for me to do. I imagine it’s the same for many people but for me it’s nearly crippling; I tend to beat myself up, agonize and criticize myself over my mistakes and failures, to the point where it sometimes becomes destructive to my self-esteem, causing me to make further mistakes. It’s become a real problem for me which I’m slowly working to get better on with the help of some coaching and self reflection and learning how to really let go of my fear of failure.

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Me, running from my failures. (Image from Giphy)

Admitting my failures out loud, even to a potential employer, ended up being therapeutic for me and it allowed me to really examine what I’ve done and come up with a way to make sure these mistakes don’t repeat themselves. Even as I speak, I’m coming up with new ways to identify and learn from my mistakes, whether it’s through building checklists and logs or (my favourite option) performing a post mortem/lessons learned report to review what went well and what didn’t, along with ways to change my thinking whenever I do fail. What really surprised me was that after I mentioned that blunder in the interview, I still ended up getting the job. It felt like I was given a second chance to prove myself, even though it’s with a new company rather than the current one I’m was in before now.

With this in mind, along with a beginner’s mindset, I’m also going into this new opportunity with the notion to fail forward. That means reviewing the failures I’ve made and will continue making along the way in a nonjudgmental way, give myself the opportunity to learn from them, why they happened and reduce the likelihood of a repeat happening.

“But how does this all relate to gaming?” you ask, as you roll your eyes at my boring work story. Well, in platforming games, like Super Mario Bros. or Sonic the Hedgehog, you always have extra lives to use in case you die mid-level. However, if you really think about the mechanics of platformers and about how tricky they can be at times, when you lose a life, it gives you an opportunity to review and learn from your mistake. You can either perfect your timing, adjust the height and length of your jump to that difficult platform, or save that power-up for before you meet that tough enemy on your run instead of after, to name a few examples. In RPG’s, like Final Fantasy, you have the Save Point; a restore point where you can return if you lose your fight. It’s a great opportunity to either retool your characters’ weapons, armour or magic or refine your battle strategy when everything goes south and your characters fall in battle. Video games essentially teach a person to fail forward; make the failure, analyze and understand why it happened, try again with a new solution and repeat until success is found.

In real life though, you don’t always get extra lives or Save Points to retry from, but you’ll still get the opportunity to learn from your failures. Failing doesn’t mean that your less of a person or that you’re not good at what your doing (which were things that I had to come to terms with), it just means that you’re learning the right things for the next time that scenario comes forward again. As someone once told me, you got to fail your way toward success, and these days, I feel like video games do a good job in teaching that, I just never paid attention. Either way the moral of the story is: Fail forward and fail often.

Sometimes though, you can fail so hard at a job, in a relationship or in a game, that you’d think to yourself, “Man, I’d love to do that over again… I would have approached it differently/said something that fixed things, etc..”  There have been many times where I wished that I could start over and approach things from a different perspective.

In gaming, we have the reset button; used to either start from a save point or from the very beginning.  Resetting a game allows us an opportunity to choose a different approach to an in-game situation vs. the choice made prior to the reset. For instance, you can do that side-quest differently and receive an alternative reward that may be better than the one you first got, you could use a different strategy to take on a tough boss, take a different path that may be an easier way through than the one you were on before, or even choose a different response to an NPC you spoke to earlier to elicit easier or more favorable conditions for your journey.

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If at first you don’t succeed, reset and try again. (Image from Giphy)

Life, unfortunately, doesn’t really give a person a reset button to fix their current situation, but it’s the lessons you learn in those situations that you can apply when you do decide to start over, whether it’s in the same, or in a different direction altogether.


So, there you have it. Have you adopted a beginner’s mindset? Ever struggled with failure? Started over somewhere? Let me know in the comments below!

Stay tuned for the next edition, because I’m doing an Espresso Shot Review on the game, Golden Axe! Also coming up, I’ll be talking about a fanfiction that I’ve been writing and using the NaNoWriMo challenge to motivate me into finishing it, how using a gaming mouse at work may lead to increased efficiency and a brand-new gaming keyboard that I picked up from Amazon to replace my laptop’s faulty one.

Until next time, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing! 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are of my own and neither reflect the views of company I am currently employed for, nor the views of my former place of employment. 

Path of Exile Play-Through: Finally at Act 2!

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!”

After a long time, I finally got a chance to continue playing Path of Exile. Long story short, I’ve made it to Act 2! It’s about time I got here, but I’ll tell you, it wasn’t easy.

Today, I’ll talk about Merveil, the final boss of Act 1, reaching The Forest Encampment in Act 2 and a few items and currencies that I found interesting.

The Vengeful Siren, Merveil

After clearing The Ship’s Graveyard, I entered the caverns where Merveil, a siren who spelt the doom of many a sailor, dwelled. According to the townfolk, the only way to get through to the Western Forest (at this point blocked off thanks to Piety…) is from Merveil’s lair at the very end of the caverns. Defeating her would open a new path and take care of a serious thorn in the side of many exiles living in Lioneye’s Watch. Like killing two birds with one stone!

Getting to Merveil isn’t easy though; throughout the cavern, I ran into tons of enemies dealing cold damage. Thankfully, I equipped a Sapphire Ring to increase my cold resistances; otherwise, I’d have had a tough time going through here. If that was enough, I also had to contend with Merveil’s daughters – powerful siren enemies each wielding a different element. One of those daughters was encased in ice, thanks to a currency item called the “Whispering Essence of Contempt.” I’ll talk about that one later.

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Jeez Louise, look at those buffs…

Once I finally reached the end of the cavern, I opened a portal scroll back to town so I could dump a few items from my inventory into my stash. I talked to Nessa and, hearing that I was going to take on Merveil, gave me a free skill gem to help me out! Nice! She gave me a choice between Ice Nova, Firestorm and Arc, among others. If you’re using a Witch and don’t have the Firestorm spell, get it – it’s very useful, especially if you add a Chance to Ignite support on it! I already had Firestorm in my possession, so I took Arc instead.

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Sweet! New Skills!

Returning to the cavern, I made sure that I was ready – my equipment and gems were set, my flasks were full and my fingers were hovering over all of my spells, totems and traps. I was good to go.

The fight against Merveil happens in two stages. In the first stage, she’s all over the place, throwing ethereal blades around and causing all kinds of chaos. My advice would be to stay away and pummel her with ranged attacks. If you got good armour and melee skills, then get up close and personal with her, but since my witch lacks in the defense department, I stuck to my spells; Firestorm, combined with Fireball and Fire Traps made for an effective strategy.

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Ehh… Did I come at a bad time? Seems like she’s got some love issues…

The real fight started after I finished off her first form. Transforming into Merveil the Twisted, she let loose with punishing cyclones and sent minions to chip away at my health. I have to say, if it wasn’t for my Devouring Totem skill that I picked up in a Jeweller’s Strongbox sometime ago, I probably would have been dead. In the end, dodging the cyclones, using area of effect skills combined with support gems and being persistent are all the advice I can give to defeat her. Beyond that, you may want to grind and gain a level or two if you’re still struggling.

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I love the smell of napalm in the morning!

Defeating her opens the exit to the Western Forest and the start of Act 2! I traveled northward, taking on hordes of Blood Apes before reaching the next town, The Forest Encampment, where I mingled with the residents, gaining important quests to further my adventure. I’ll talk about these in the next post.

Item/Currency Spotlight

I mentioned that one of Merveil’s daughters was trapped in ice before I took her on and defeated her. Her imprisonment was caused by a currency called an Essence, introduced in the Essence League some time ago.

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Essences are no joke: check out the first image of this post and you’ll see why.

Essences power up monsters, giving them several buffs and making them much tougher to defeat in battle. When you do defeat an enemy empowered by the Essence, they leave it behind for you to use. The Essence I obtained, the “Whispering Essence of Contempt,” transforms a normal weapon or armour into a magic item and bestows a given property (namely, additional physical damage) to the item. I haven’t found much use for it as of yet (since all my equipment is either magic or rare), but it could be useful if you obtain it early, when there’s not many rare items to find yet.

I do want to talk about Totems really quickly: these are useful skill gems to have. A totem skill creates an effigy that aids you in battle either by providing a buff or special effect while it’s active or by using a skill for you. If you find a “Devouring Totem” skill, I highly recommend using it – you’ll be consistently surrounded by groups and the totem will help restore health as you mow down the crowds.


Looking for some of the aforementioned items? Be sure to check out the Path of Exile Items store at Playerauctions.com: they have a wide selection at a reasonable cost, and all transactions are safe and secure.

Hope you enjoyed today’s play-through post! Stay tuned for the next play-through coming up real soon!

For now, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” wishing you Exiles good fortune on the battlefield and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

 

A Quick List of Great, Halloween-inspired Video Game Tunes!

Good morning boils and ghouls and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.” Happy Halloween!

Whether you’re going to a costume party, handing out candy or trick-or-treating yourself, it always helps to have some tunes prepared to get you into the right mood. With that, I thought I’d share a quick list of Halloween inspired video game tunes to set your day off right! Let’s get into it!


Silent Hill – Main Theme

I’ll be honest – I’ve never played Silent Hill. (Don’t judge me!). Horror games aren’t really my thing, but I love playing the main theme for the game come Halloween time. It hits all the right notes; it’s creepy and eerie and makes me think “Oh man, I’m gonna wet myself if I enter this town, aren’t I?” … Not that I do, I’m a lot more braver than that, but still…

Final Fantasy VII – The Nightmare’s Beginning (Vincent’s Theme)

Ah, Vincent, you morbid, tortured immortal. What I like about this theme for Halloween is that it makes me think of ghost stories. After all, Vincent’s backstory is something out of an urban legend itself – He falls in love with a woman named Lucrecia, a scientist who was part of a team studying a recently discovered ancient life form. However, when he professes his love for her, he is ultimately spurned when she says she has feelings for her colleague, Hojo, a twisted mad scientist with delusions of grandeur. Hojo injects the woman’s fetus with the life form’s cells, mutating her child into the terror known later as Sephiroth, greatly angering Vincent. When he tries to stop the madness, Hojo shoots and modifies him, granting him immortality and the ability to transform into hideous monsters. Now, to this day, he haunts the Shinra Manor in Nibelheim, agonized at the fact that he could not save the one he loves and yearning for a chance at revenge.

You gotta admit, it does make for a great campfire story? As an added bonus to make things excessively creepy, check out this highly experimental, guitar-driven remix of the theme:

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Dracula’s Castle

Literally anything from Castlevania will work to get into the Halloween spirit! I chose this one because it’s one of my favourite themes from one of my favourite games in the series. If you’re looking for something more retro inspired, how about the original “Vampire Killer” theme from the original Castlevania?

If that doesn’t get you into the mood to prepare for little undead monsters asking for treats, I dunno what will?

Kingdom Hearts – This is Halloween

You can’t have Halloween without the Halloween Town theme from the Kingdom Hearts series (originally from The Nightmare Before Christmas)! This is my go-to to get into the Halloween spirit; it’s the perfect, spooky track to put on as the kiddies go door-to-door for candy!


So that’s it, what do you think? Got anymore scary scores, twisted tunes or fearful features to recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

This has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” reminding you that whatever you’re doing this Halloween, stay safe, carry a stake or two and some garlic, don’t OD too much on candy and, as always, Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing.

My Top 20 Favourite Remixes from OverClocked Remix!

Hello and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” May your days be as bountiful as the coffee brewing in your carafe.

Today, (after a LONG while…) were seugeing back to the world of video game music: I’m going to share with you my top 20 remixes from my go-to VGM site, OCRemix! This is actually the second part of a three part series about the site and it’s music and it’s remixers, but enough with the tangents, let’s get ready to listen to some dope tunes!


20. Swingin’ with Death from Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance by Nase.

Starting from the top, is a remix of the introductory area (Successor of Fate) from the GameBoy Advanced game, Castelvania: Harmony of Dissonance. This mix starts with an epic, sweeping, orchestral opening before doing a full 180 into some sweet sexy funk! The horn at the beginning is probably the weakest point of the mix, but it’s so groovy it can be well overlooked. My favourite part of this song is at 1.36: the lo-fi sounds send my spine tingling.

19. Sparkle from Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia by Joshua Morse.

Josh here is one of my favourite remixers; in fact one of his other mixes is on this list as well! This is another sexy, jazzy track from the Castlevania series, this time from the last and probably the greatest of the portable Castlevania’s on the Nintendo DS: Order of Ecclesia. The source tune (Emerald Mists) was already good to begin with (first heard in Ruvas Forest), but Josh slows it down and adds his signature sound to make this a very chill track. The accordion that pops in at 0.53 gives off that Eastern European feeling, which really fits in well with the game’s narrative.

18. Captain of the Skies from Final Fantasy VII by ZackParrish

Final Fantasy VII holds an incredibly special place in my heart, which will be the subject in a future post. The setting, the story, the music and especially it’s beloved cast of characters have moved and inspired me in ways I could never have imagined. This mix, an orchestral version of Cid’s Theme, really moved me when I first listened to it. It really speaks to Cid’s character as a pilot whose dream was to go into outer space. 1:41 is my favourite part of the mix; it builds up to the last bit of the song which then gives off a reflective sort of mood, mirroring Cid’s anguish of seeing his dreams shattered. It’s a very well done track.

17. Voices Broken from F-Zero by JJT

And now for something completely different: Mute City a la Indie Rock. This is a raw, gritty take on the source that goes hard with a crunchy e-guitar followed by a smoother lead with a slick drum accompaniment. It’s quite edgy and quite awesome.

16. A Fistful of Nickels from Final Fantasy VI by Jeff Ball, Jillian Aversa, XPRTNovice and zircon.

Shadow’s Theme done in the style of an epic Western. He was one of my favourite’s from Final Fantasy VI’s massive character roster, so I was thrilled at the treatment this song gives him. The whistling makes me jealous – I wish I could whistle like that! (And I’m actually pretty good at it myself, so that’s saying something). Everything, from Jillian’s vocals, to the choice of instruments to the arrangement itself, works really well, which is why it’s a favourite of mine.

15. Wet Dreams from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night by ktriton

You’re probably thinking by now, “What’s with all these jazzy Castlevania tunes?” Well, I personally think that Castlevania and jazz somehow go really good together. This one’s just as funky as the other two mentioned above, but it’s a bit more haunting than the other two Castlevania mixes I featured in this list. Nevertheless, the acoustic guitar and the electric piano give off a lot of warmth and it’s what I love the most about this mix: it gives off a “Chilin’ out in the Great Hall of my castle,” kind of feel.

14. Prancing Dad from Final Fantasy VI by Prince uf Darkness

Two words here: My God. Besides the crazy explicit lyrics (that blend into the background so well that you kinda have to strain to hear), this is an absolutely epic rendition of the final battle against Kefka in Final Fantasy VI. Oh, and did I mention it clocks in at almost 12 minutes?! It even mixes in the legendary One Winged Angel from Final Fantasy VII in a transition so seamless that you really have to pay attention to hear where Dancing Mad stops and where One Winged Angel begins! This mix is absolutely nuts and would definitely fit with Kefka’s insane personality.

13. Fading Entity from Final Fantasy VII by bLiNd and Leifo

This is damn good trance music, nuff said. bLiNd is a legend for his trance stuff (Seriously, his stuff is SO good, check it out!) and Leifo’s guitar solo midway through the song is just wicked. Sticking that solo in there, I think, prevents the mix from being to repetitive, which was a good move on their part. Also, shifting the timing from 3/4 to 4/4 turns this haunting song, played in the area where gaming’s most tragic moment occurs, into a rave-worthy track.

12. Fiesta Amongst The Trees from Ristar by the Southwest Afro-Cuban Jazz Ensemble

This is a fantastic jazz track that gives off a great tropical vibe! Really fits in well with Ristar’s fun environment. This jazz band was really playful and chill with the arrangement, while not deviating too much from the original source. Recommended for those who love the beach, hot weather and cold drinks!

11. Funky Mario Circuit (Radio Edit) from Super Mario Kart by The OneUps

(ANOTHER funky track? You’re probably thinking “What’s with this guy?” by now, aren’t you?)

Here from the band, The OneUps, is a great remix of Mario Circuit from Super Mario Kart for the SNES. Everything in this mix works; from the guitar, the bass to the beat, this will get one in a racing mood! Just… Watch out for the cops when you’re on the road when this is on.

10. Blue Skies from Final Fantasy XIII by bLiNd and Ashleigh Coryell

Now this, this is an excellent Drum n’ Bass/Dubstep track using the “Will to Fight” source from Final Fantasy XIII. Fun fact: bLiNd did this track for his beloved wife as a birthday present and the lyrics speak of a promise for the future. The dubstep drop at 2:13 doesn’t feel overbearing, rather it shakes things up to prevent the arrangement from being too boring and Ashleigh’s vocals are on point. I listen to this, and I instantly think of Lightning’s struggle to change her and her sister’s fates. It’s well worth a listen!

9. Dieselbrainage from Super Metroid by Mazedude

OH SNAP. This is a dark and dirty DnB mix of the final battle music against Mother Brain from Super Metroid. What’s interesting about the source tune is that it’s performed in 7/4 time, a unique register in the music world. Mazedude pulls out all the stops on this remix. The main beat is dark and evil-sounding and the sick drum loop along with that chunky mechanical bass really helps to differentiate it from the source tune. The break at 1:57 is a hilarious nod to Samus’ main theme before jumping right back into the insanity with a hysterical, mocking laugh, as if Mother Brain itself is telling you, “You’re doomed!” An absolutely awesome track.

8. Chaotic 5 from Knuckles’ Chaotix by OverClocked Assembled

A slick rap arrangement featuring the cast of Knuckles and his Chaotix? Sign me the hell up! The source sampled from the game is one of my favourites from the obscure 32X game, but what gets me excited is the incredibly clever lyrics and the flow in which they’re delivered in. Another fun fact: this track was inspired by another rap arrangement of Knuckles’ theme from Sonic Adventure 2, done 12 years ago (which, while dated, is also amazing!) Very clean, very chill and way past cool, it’s a solid favourite!

7. Graveyard Theory from Sonic Adventure 2 by Zone Runners

This is a great tune to play for Halloween! By my favourite trio of remixers, (SirJ, halc and DiGi Valentine), this is an upgraded version of the original “A Ghost Pumpkin Soup,” from Sonic Adventure 2. The first part contains the verses from the original song before the ZR spits out some all new vernacular in the next two thirds that really fits well with the Halloween vibe. If you’re looking for some good nerd rap music for your next Halloween party, this is a great candidate.

6. Running to the Beat from Sonic CD by Arceace

When it comes to Sonic the Hedgehog, the music is always top-notch. When it’s remixed into 90’s style techno electronica, it’s even better! Mixing the US version of the special stage music from Sonic CD, this track is literally my workout jam. With a great rhythm and a smooth beat, this is best played for when you need to go hard on your run or push for that one extra rep. Well recommended for the gym-rat!

5. Baal Bhaagna from Shantae: Risky’s Revenge by Jake Kauffman

One word: Badass. This is a sick, Bollywood-inspired mix of “She’s Got Moves,” from the awesome Shantae series! Channeling some serious A.R. Rahman (famous Bollywood artist, songwriter and composer), it reminds me of either a chase or a fight scene in one of those really over-the-top Bollywood action movies (most likely starring Salman Khan and shot with LOTS of slo-mo). It’s South Asian inspired elements pair well with the kickin’ beat. My favourite part is at 1:23; it gives me chills! This is up there in my top 10, maybe five favourite remixes; I really urge you to listen to it!

4. Marble Dash from Sonic the Hedgehog by Joshua Morse

This is one of JM’s first submissions to OCR; a remix of my all-time favorite Zone from the Sonic series, Marble Zone. It’s a feel-good, jazzy and groovy rendition of the source tune. It’s playful, bouncy and the bassline is so good! I’ve had this song on my playlists since I was back in high school and all throughout my university years and it’s really helped to keep me positive during that period, so it holds a special place in my heart because of that.

3. Big Band Battlefield from Super Mario 64 by The University of Toronto 10 O’Clock Big Band.

The first level of the iconic game, Super Mario 64, done in swinging, big band style! I love this rendition of Bom-Omb Battlefield, it makes me feel like I’m in a swing club back in the 1920’s. I also dig four things about this mix: one, that, due to it being a live recording, it feels really authentic. You even hear a guy ordering a pint of Amsterdam midway through the song! Second, it’s by the students at U of T, right in the heart of downtown Toronto, where I was born. And third and fourth? The sick baritone saxophone solo starting at 1:46 and the subsequent, over the top drum solo at 3:36. Both are ridiculous!

2. stratification from Chrono Trigger by melody

I actually mentioned this mix before in my first post about OCRemix, but I feel the need to repeat myself: this mix is a Goddamned LEGEND! The electric guitar is so sublime and it fits the source tune from the game so well. The soft choir that enters around 1:23 adds to the already amazing atmosphere of the track and compliments the absolute shreddage of the aforementioned guitar. It’s so good!

1. Triforce Majeure from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past by Disco Dan

Out of all the mixes on this list, this is without a doubt my absolute favorite, hence why it’s in the number one spot! By combining a robust orchestra with slick electronica (these are two of my favourite things!), busting through Hyrule Castle and rescuing Princess Zelda never sounded so good! This was labeled an instant classic in 2004, and it’s hard to see why not: the build up leading to the main beat is tense and atmospheric, before dropping the beat just after the first minute and introducing that hardcore brass section twenty seconds afterwards. Things get intense at the 2:40 mark, where the orchestra shines the strongest. The beat itself is just so good and so catchy, you can’t help but tap your toes to it. The arpeggios starting right at the 2:15 mark are TIGHT! And the section starting at 3:25 building up to the epic climax gives me chills. Overall, if you’re curious to see a perfect example of remixing done right, this is the one you should listen to.


And there you have it! I’ve aggregated the videos above onto a playlist in my brand new Youtube channel! If you like what you’ve listened to, or if you want me to recommend more awesome tracks, let me know!

Stay tuned for the next edition, where I continue my playthrough for Path of Exile; I’ve finally reached Act 2! And I’ve got a LOT of content to catch up with, so keep your eyes peeled this whole week – there’s a flood coming!

This has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

Espresso Shot Review: Sonic Mania

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” Today, I’m introducing a brand-new segment I call “Espresso Shot Reviews.” Put simply, I’ll be reviewing games both old and new and will give my personal opinions on them, as well as a rating out of five. Each review will be short (less than 1000 words), but packed with intensity and detail. It’s like an espresso shot, hence the name.

Today’s review will be on Sonic Mania, released on August 15, 2017 for PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch and August 29, 2017 for PC. I’ll be going over the story, gameplay, graphics, music and replayability (or replay value).


Developed by Christian “Taxman” Whitehead in partnership with PagodaWest Games and Headcannon and published by SEGA, Sonic Mania is a 2-D sprite art, physics-based platformer. It’s a tribute to the old-school, 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog games of yore and was released in celebration of Sonic’s 25th anniversary.

Sonic Mania - Title

Story

Hot off the heels from Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Dr. Eggman and five of his Egg-Robo’s have returned to Angel Island and extracted a strange gem called the Phantom Ruby. When Sonic and Tails catch up to the mad doctor, the gem’s dimension-warping effect sends both heroes, along with Knuckles, to Green Hill Zone. The gem also had an effect on the Egg-Robo’s; transforming them into the much tougher Hard-Boiled Heavies. The heroes must now travel through twelve zones spanning multiple dimensions, retrieve both the Phantom Ruby and the Chaos Emeralds and defeat Eggman and the Heavies before they conquer the world.

Gameplay

Gameplay-wise, Sonic Mania plays exactly like the originals. Each level (Zone) is divided into two huge Acts chock-full of quarter pipes, loops, ramps, springs and other things to help Sonic and company get around. Obstacles abound; from Badniks to spikes and traps, to bottomless pits and crushing objects, there are plenty of things to be wary of.

The twelve zones consist of eight popular zones from the first four Classic Sonic (Sonic 1-3 & Sonic CD) games and four new zones introduced to the series. The first Act of each classic zone is a combination of that zone’s original first and second Acts, while the second Act remixes elements from the original zone with features from other classic levels and adds new elements to spice things up.

The four new zones are inspired by some of the series’s most iconic levels. They also presents a theme derived from SEGA’s history as a publisher. Examples include the Streets of Rage aesthetic combined with Casino/Carnival Night Zone elements in Studiopolis Zone and the Shinobi-inspired second act of Press Garden, which also brings forward elements from Ice Cap and Mushroom Hill Zones.

Each act contains multiple paths to traverse through, encouraging the player to either find the fastest path through each level or explore to find Large Rings – entrances to a special stage where a Chaos Emerald can be earned.

Large Ring

While I enjoyed the selection of classic zones, I would’ve liked to see more new zones added to balance things between old and new.

Bosses are encountered at the end of each act and require different strategies to win. Most fights were fun but I felt a few bosses, such as the ones in Hydrocity Acts 1 and 2 and Studiopolis’ Act 1 boss, were a bit tedious, while Mirage Saloon’s Act 1 boss was just too easy. My favourite boss fight was Metallic Madness’ Act 2 boss – the miniature theme was extremely creative.

Metallic Madness Act 2 - Boss

In addition to the basic moveset (run, spin attack, spin dash and jump), the three characters also have their own special moves and properties. New to Sonic’s arsenal is the Drop Dash – used in midair to drop down into a spin dash. It’s useful for gaining momentum after a jump, or to strike a Badnik that can’t be jumped on without losing your momentum. Tails’ flying ability makes a comeback, with Sonic able to command Tails to fly him up to new areas and Knuckles keeps his gliding, climbing and wall breaking abilities. He doesn’t jump as high as the other two, however.

Rings are essential for survival – you lose a life if you’re not holding any in your possession. Collecting 100 rings nets an extra life. Power ups include the elemental shields from Sonic 3 and the Hyper Ring from the obscure Knuckles’ Chaotix game, along with staple items, like the Power Sneakers and Invincibility.

Graphics and Art

What I enjoyed the most about Sonic Mania is how animated everything looks, thanks to the game running at 60fps. From how fluid each of the player characters moved, to the little details in the environments and the colours in each zone, the game’s high-quality pixel art exudes plenty of charm. I noticed no slowdowns or lag when I was playing it on the Switch.

I especially loved the art direction for the new zones. Studiopolis and Press Garden stand out the most for me, because of how breathtaking the visuals look between Acts 1 and 2.

Music

Music has always been a strong point for the Sonic series. The music was done by Tee Lopes, who I think did a really good job remixing the classic zone tunes. The audio for the new zones are catchy and upbeat until you hit the last zone, which threw me off a bit due to its brooding and serious tone.

Chemical Plant Act 2, Press Garden Act 2, Studiopolis Act 1, Stardust Speedway Act 1 and Mirage Saloon Act 1 as Knuckles are my favourites to listen to:

The boss tunes are also great earworms; the boss theme for the Hard-Boiled Heavies, along with the Eggman Boss theme (Ruby Delusions), are some of the best boss themes in the series.

Replayability

There are lots of replay options available after beating the game. You can try your hand at Time Attack mode, or settle differences with friends through Competition mode.

In-game, hitting star posts with more than 25 rings in possession opens a portal to the Blue Spheres minigame from Sonic 3. Beating the stage earns a medal, which unlocks a variety of new playing modes, including the use of Sonic’s old Insta-shield, Debug Mode or the &Knuckles mode, which adds the echidna as a partner character.

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For a special surprise, finish the game as Knuckles & Knuckles. It’s hilarious!

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While there could have been more original zones and less tedious/more challenging boss fights, Sonic Mania nevertheless celebrates the best of the character to great effect. It’s a perfect example of how enduring Sonic is after 25 years and how he’s still going strong.

4.5 out of 5.png

4.5/5


How’d I do? Let me know in the comments below! Coming up on “Games with Coffee,” I’m back in Wraeclast with more Path of Exile, and I’ll be sharing my favourite remixes from OverClocked Remix! Stay tuned!

With that, this has been Ryan, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing! See ya!

Path of Exile Play-Through: So Close, Yet Still So Far

Good evening and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!”

I need to admit something right now: Playing Path of Exile has given a new appreciation for MMORPG’s. The story’s engaging, the gameplay is challenging and there’s always some kind of new loot or new quest that I’m stumbling on every time I start it up! And I’m still only on the first Act of the game…

Today, I’ll be sharing more info on some valuable quests, items, currencies and other little things I’ve discovered on my latest play-through, which WOULD have gotten me to Act 2, if it wasn’t for a certain individual whom I think will be a thorn in my side for the remainder of my adventure…

Piety Blocked the Way Forward!

Curse you Piety!

Passive Skills and “The Fall of Oriath” Expansion

Grinding Gear Games released their latest expansion for Path of Exile called “The Fall of Oriath.” This new expansion adds a new Act to the story, along with new items and other things. The major thing that they changed in this expansion is the Passive Skill tree – they’ve revamped and remapped all of the nodes, resulting in players having to re-allocate their skill points, myself included.

While it was a bit of a bother, it was actually a blessing in disguise. I focused my points on doing more damage and having more life and I noticed a total change in how my witch, Rhuki, dished out the hurt. It was pretty awesome.

Prophecies

As I ascended “The Climb,” I ran into an interesting woman stuck in a cage. Her name is Navali – a soothsayer capable of delivering prophecies for the low, low cost of one Silver Coin.

Prophecies

Rescuing her from her prison and speaking to her in town allows the use of prophecies that can change your character’s future and cause all sorts of interesting effects! I gave her the one coin I found prior to meeting her and thus gained a prophecy that I would run into Haku, the Forsaken Armourmaster, and will complete a task for him. Soon enough, I ran into the Master deep in the Lower Prison area!

Haku.PNG

Well, isn’t this a coincidence? *wink wink*

Once again, he asked me to bring him a Karui spirit from a haunted cell within the prison. Once again, I entered the cell, obliterated the boss protecting the spirit and delivered it to him, gaining me a huge boost in reputation thanks to the prophecy!

I ended up finding a second Silver Coin after slaying a ton of monsters in the Prison and traded it in to get a prophecy where I’d earn a TON of loot from an enemy! Entering The Ship Graveyard, I spotted and vanquished the prophesized enemy yielding said promised loot.

Prophecy Fulfilled!

JACKPOT BABY!

Coincidentally when the monster full of loot appeared, I bumped into another Forsaken Master: Elreon the Loremaster.

The Loremaster

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A wild Forsaken Master appeared!

Eleron is something of a holy man; religion and relics are his modus operandi. The goal was to protect Eleron’s relic by defeating waves of enemies. As you can see above, I stood on their corpses, triumphant!

By keeping the relic safe, the Loremaster will sell and craft unique items in town, similar to Haku. His speciality is crafting amulets and rings.

Trial of Ascendancy – What Are Those?

Back in the Lower Prison, I had an opportunity to enter the first of many Trials of Ascendency. These trials are required to enter The Lord’s Labyrinth later in the game, which, when completed, allows the opportunity to ascend to a new class! Each trial acts as a practice arena for what Exiles should expect when entering the full Labyrinth. The first Trial deals with spike traps – not only do you have to be careful around them but you also have to consider timing, since the only way to get out of the trial is to go back to the start on foot.

Tips and Currency Watch

Here are a few tips and some items and currencies to keep an eye out for when you’re trying not to die:

  • Find some gear that increases the rarity of drops. These really help when you’re trying to find new, rare gear either for yourself or to trade with vendors or players.
  • Open as many chests, barrels and boxes as you can see. You may find some crafting orbs if you’re lucky!
  • Jeweller’s Orbs: These are uncommon crafting orbs that can randomly change the number of sockets on an item. Save these for when you get a great quality weapon or armour; the higher the quality and the greater the item level, the better the chances that you’ll get more sockets!
  • Divination Cards: Trading in multiples of a single card will yield crafting orbs or other items! Keep your eyes peeled for them!

Looking for some of the aforementioned items? Be sure to check out the Path of Exile Items store at Playerauctions.com: they have a wide selection at a reasonable cost, and all transactions are safe and secure.

Hope you enjoyed today’s play-through post! Stay tuned for the next play-through later in October! For now, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” wishing you Exiles good fortune on the battlefield and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

The Nintendo Switch: Does It Live Up To The Hype?

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” Happy Video Games Day!

So, as you probably know, either through my recent posts or from my Instagram feed, I got a Nintendo Switch for my birthday! Today, I want to share with you the system itself, my impressions on Nintendo’s latest console after a couple months of owning it and if it lives up to the hype it generated from its announcement almost a year ago.


The Back Story

The Wii-U was a major failure for Nintendo.

Since it’s debut in November 2012, the Wii-U failed to capitalize on its predecessors massive success. Despite delivering innovative technology in the Game Pad, the additions low battery life, the lack of third party support from developers and lack of clear goals for the system had led critics to believe, at the end of its production, that the system was nothing more than a glorified Wii with a controller/touchpad hybrid.

Now, I’m not knocking down the console or anything. My brother has it and it’s not a bad system, all things considered. The Wii-U’s had some big hits, including Super Mario Maker, which allows the player to create their own Mario levels and the latest installment of the ever-popular Super Smash Bros. series, which included the return of fan favourites, such as Sonic, Dr. Mario and Zero Suit Samus, along with newcomers like Mega Man, Pac-Man and Little Mac from Punch-Out. On top of that was the underdog inky shooter game Splatoon, which was a rousing success. And let’s not forget about the ever-enduring Mario Kart series, of which it has reached its eighth installment. There’s were some not-so-great games, like Star Fox Zero, which was lackluster due to its odd control scheme and its focus on re-imagining the series. And the fact that third party development focused their efforts on developing games for the latest Sony and Microsoft console releases didn’t help its case. Overall though, there were some good games, but good first party games don’t make a successful console, considering that the Wii sold more in its first year than its successor could in its entire lifetime.

So, Nintendo did what most don’t: re-innovate, re-structure and re-imagine what a console should be. Using what they learned from the Wii-U’s Game Pad device, coupled with their dominance in the handheld gaming segment (the 2DS/3DS has effectively monopolized that market), their vast experience with motion controls and lessons learned from their previous missteps, they unveiled the Nintendo Switch.


The System

The Nintendo Switch, a hybrid between a console and a handheld system, was announced in October 2016 and released on March 3, 2017, along with its launch title: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

The main unit is a tablet-like device, with two housings on each side uses for its main control inputs, called the Joy-Con’s. The system comes with two Joy-Con controllers, a dock, an AC adapter with USB-C input, an HDMI cable and two straps for the Joy-Con’s.

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Pay no attention to the nose, glasses and forehead on the screen…

The console itself is a tablet with a capacitive touch screen. On the top of the unit is the power button, volume up and down, a 3.5 mm audio jack and a cartridge slot for games. The back of the unit has a kickstand, used to set it on a surface and a micro-SD card slot, housed underneath the kickstand. On the bottom is the USB-C charging input and the intake vents. The display is 6.2 inches wide, corner to corner and displays at a resolution of 1280 x 720. When docked, the console’s display resolution bumps up to 1080p. The system is powered by an Octa-core processor clocking in at 1.02 GHz, has 4 GB of RAM and uses the Nvidia Tegra X1 as its system-on chip (basically, a jack-of-all-trades chip made up of many components that perform an array of functions). There is 32 GB of internal storage in the unit, but with the micro-SD slot, that capacity can increase up to 2 TB. The battery life on the unit averages about 3-4 hours per charge.

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Behold! My (tiny) library of games!

About half the size of the Wii-mote, the Joy-Con’s can either be used together as a single player controller, or individually for single or multiplayer games. Each controller has an analog stick, four face buttons, a plus button and the home button on the right hand controller and a minus button and a capture button on the left hand controller, and two trigger buttons on the top (The L/R and ZL/ZR buttons).

Whether the Joy-Con’s are held in each hand, attached to the system for “Handheld Mode” (more on that below), or slid into the Joy-Con Grip, the control scheme is analogous to that of the PS4 and Xbox One and is how most AAA single or multiplayer games (like Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2 and the upcoming Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim) are played.

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It looks like a puppy with odd eye placements… and now you cannot unsee that image. Enjoy!

When turned on its side, the Joy-Con’s button layout looks and feels similar to that of Nintendo’s best selling console, the Super Nintendo. There are two additional trigger buttons on the top (SL and SR), which are more easily accessible by sliding in the hand straps provided with the console. This control scheme is used mainly for multiplayer games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or the upcoming Pokken Tournament DX, but can be used for a few single player titles as well.

 

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Pro-tip: Hit the SL and SR Buttons together to use the controller on its side.

Each Joy-Con is equipped with HD Rumble, a feature that simulates realistic vibrations, like feeling several cubes of ice clinking in a glass, as shown in the technical demonstration. Along with the rumble feature, the motion controls of the Wii have also been integrated into the Joy-Con’s and are primarily used for motion controlled games, such as the Wii Boxing-inspired game, ARMS and the party game, 1-2 Switch. Motion controls are also featured in Breath of the Wildas well, in that you can aim your bow by tilting the controller (or the unit itself when it’s in Handheld Mode). The controls are also used to solve a few motion-based puzzles in game.

A Pro Controller is available to further mimic the traditional console gaming feel. For those who are looking for a more budget-friendly option, the wireless controller company, 8bitdo recently released a firmware update for their NES30 Pro controller, allowing it to work on the Switch.

The Nintendo Switch can operate in several modes, depending on your situation. Attaching the unit to the dock puts the unit in “TV Mode”, allowing it to operate like a traditional console. The dock itself is compact and minimalist in design, compared to the bulkier PS4 and Xbox One systems. The HDMI and power inputs, along with a USB 3.0 port, are located on the back of the dock and are kept hidden by a panel, with an opening to allow the power and HDMI cable wiring to come out. It results in a clean, wire-free look that adds to its minimalist design. There are also two additional USB ports on the side of the dock.

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Simplicity, thy name is Switch.

Slapping the controllers onto the side of the tablet and removing it from the dock “switches” (Ha!) the console to “Handheld Mode,” where the console behaves as a handheld device. Games played in Handheld Mode are the same as in TV Mode, with the exception of graphics resolution (no 1080p in this mode), meaning that games like Breath of the Wild can be played on the go.

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On-the-go gaming has never looked so good.

Finally, popping out the kickstand, placing the console on a surface and taking out the Joy-Con’s enables “Tabletop Mode,” which can be used either for single player game play, or more commonly for local multiplayer gaming away from a dedicated screen.

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Woo! Sonic Mania! I asked my wife to pick up the other Joy-Con and play along with me as Tails… She said no… 😦

That’s all the technical mumbo-jumbo out of the way. (Phew!). Now, you’re probably asking, “Thanks for that boring lecture, professor, but what do YOU think of the system so far?”

Good question. Here’s my answer.


The Verdict

After about two months of owning the system, I can safely say this with as little bias as possible: Nintendo did pretty well here. The system is incredibly unique in the sense that you can play it at home on the TV and on the go. It’s like having two systems in one! These days, I’ve been playing it solely in Handheld Mode and it’s been a great experience so far. Playing a full-fledged Zelda game on a device roughly twice the size of my smartphone has never felt so fulfilling.

I honestly don’t gripe about the battery life on the Switch when it’s in Handheld Mode. Three to four hours is plenty of time for a mature, distinguished gamer to play in bed while their significant other sleeps beside them, though I usually play for about an hour or two. What I love about the system is how quickly it boots up from sleep mode, the Switch’s “Off” setting, similar to that of the PS4’s “Rest Mode.” I press the power button on the top of the system or the home button on the Joy-Con’s/Pro Controller and the system boots up immediately and I’m back in the game while my wife’s asleep. It’s incredibly satisfying.

I also think it’s cool that Nintendo designed the system in a way that a second controller for two-player games comes included right out of the box. Highly useful for when the wife and I want to play Mario Kart (One of the few games she’ll actually play with me when I eventually get it!). For games like ARMS though, you’ll need a second set of Joy-Con’s to play locally.

Switching from TV Mode to Handheld Mode and back again is seamless. There is no discernible delay when the system switches between modes, which, again, is very rad.

There were a couple of things slightly affected my experience. One was the small game library available right from the start, even several months after release. When I first booted up the system, the Nintendo e-Shop had a whole bunch of downloadable titles, along with digital copies of their physical releases, but nothing really stood out to me in the store, besides Mighty Gunvolt Burst. That might change as the holiday season rolls around. (Correction, it has: Sonic Mania dropped a couple weeks ago. I picked it up and it’s AWESOME!)

Another thing was the internal storage space. 32 GB may seem quite sizable compared to that of the PS Vita, with its 1 GB internal storage, but when you look at the size of some of the downloadable titles, plus the fact that you can save screenshots directly to the device, that storage can get eaten up pretty quickly. It’s a good thing I had a spare 32 GB micro-SD card lying around to expand my storage capacity!

Finally, while it’s not a huge deal for me, I’m sure many people are a bit miffed that the Switch doesn’t play at native 4K resolution, unlike the PS4 Pro and and the Xbox One X. Truthfully, having the system run on 4K resolution at 60 frames per second isn’t a priority for me: I’m more concerned about playing good, quality games and I’m quite happy with the Switch’s native resolutions.

Overall, the Nintendo Switch was built for the mature, distinguished gamer in mind, giving the user free range on wherever they want to play it and presenting it in a compact, minimalist package. Whether it’s on the TV, in bed playing in Handheld Mode, at a friend’s place playing in Tabletop Mode or whatever the case may be, the Nintendo Switch has lived up to my expectations and thus, I declare that the hype surrounding the system was well justified, although that’s just my opinion. With the upcoming holiday season approaching and the games being released in that period, I believe that Switch and the Big N itself are well positioned to make a significant comeback after the stumbles with the Wii-U.


So that’s it! What do you guys think? How’d I do? Gimme some feedback in the comments below! (I need those like I need a strong cup o’ Joe, know what I’m sayin’?). And stay tuned for the next edition, where I continue my playthrough of Path of Exile with my Witch, Rhuki! (Who’s a total badass IMO). Plus, coming after that is my brand new segment – “Espresso Shots!” I cannot wait to share this with you!

And with that said, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” wishing you a Happy Video Games Day and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing! See ya!

Clash Royale: Decks, Tips and Tricks to Help Conquer the Arena

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” Hope you’ve got you’re game face on, because today I’m going to share with you some tips, tricks, decks and strategies on my favourite mobile game: Clash Royale!


If you haven’t realized it already, Clash has kind of become an obsession of mine. These days however, I’ve been in a love-hate relationship with it. Partially because I’ve been on a losing streak of late, partially because I’m hovering between arenas due to said losing streak and mostly because I get matched with opponents that completely decimate my deck strategy…

The good thing that’s been keeping my spirits up is the new 2v2 Mode, introduced over the summer! This mode works like a tag-team match: you and a clan member (or a random person) vs. another pair of battlers. First pair to destroy the other sides towers is the victor! Naturally, four people sharing an arena gets incredibly chaotic and that chaos can either help or hinder you based on your’s or your partner’s actions. It’s a great addition to an already good game and I recommend that you try it when it returns this week! It’s especially fun when you and your friends are in the same clan together; best friends sometimes make the best teammates!

Despite my frustrations at Clash, I’ve discovered a couple of tricks and made a few awesome decks to both help keep me in the win column and to help my clan with the weekly Clan Chest and 2v2 events. Without further ado, I’ll start off by sharing a couple of my favourite decks and strategies to use them.


My Favourite Decks and Strategies

Going from Arena 7 (Royal Arena) to Arena 8 (Frozen Peak) was a slog for me. My go-to deck with Lava Hound and Balloon (LavaLoon) just wasn’t cutting it, so I needed to make a new deck.

Sometimes, special chest offers appear in the shop. If you have gold or gems to burn, this would be a good opportunity to use them. In one case, I opened up a Legendary Chest, which can contain a Legendary card from any Arena and lo and behold I got the Lumberjack!

This guy is a badass: swings hard and fast and leaves behind a Rage effect (increases attack, movement and summon speed) when defeated.

And so (with help from the online deck building database), I built a deck around the Lumberjack and Balloon that can be described as insanely fast and extremely defensive.

Do you see that average?!

Brings new meaning to the phrase “Fast and the Furious”

The main strategy entails the use of the Ice Golem as the tank, followed by the Lumberjack placed behind the Golem to get to the tower. Once there, I summon the Balloon; the Lumberjack at this point is either nearly dead or all dead, at which he drops the Rage bottle, speeding up my Balloon and finishing off the tower before the opponent can counter.

Speaking of counters, I employ the use of my trusty sidekick: the Fireball as well as the Zap card. Defensive counters include the use of Skeletons (not the army, just the four three of them), the Ice Spirit and Ice Golem and the Minions. All in all, this deck clocks in at an average elixir cost of 2.8, meaning that I can cycle through cheap cards to build up my defense while waiting for the right opportunity to launch my counter-attack.

It’s not without its weaknesses though: The Executioner’s axe throwing can really mess up this strategy in a heartbeat. Plus, with no buildings to protect my towers, I’m potentially leaving myself open to the dreaded Hog Rider (the name and high-pitched cry of “Hog Riiiider!” may not inspire much dread, but he’s OP for a good reason: he decimates towers with ease). Finally, while this deck is speedy, it still requires a bit of patience and great timing to use; jumping the gun will result in you getting annihilated very quicky, so if patience is not part of your play style, then this deck isn’t for you.

After reaching Jungle Arena (Arena 9), I found that my LumberLoon deck wasn’t cutting it either (Mainly because players with Executioner’s kept cutting me down to size…). However, I got lucky and won a Legendary Chest from battling! It took a whole day, but I recieved this sneaky beauty upon opening it:

Hellooooo Thief!

With help from my brother from another mother, fellow clanmate and favourite 2v2 partner, Anthony, (who is also my go-to person regarding Clash), I built myself an awesome, winning deck centered around the Bandit, Battle Ram and the Witch:

The Dream Team

Depending on what cards I start out with, I lead off with the Witch and the Knight in the back, the Knight acting as both a tank to protect my Witch AND a way to invest elixir. Reading the situation on the other side of the field, I either counter attack with my trusty Fireball, Minions or Tombstone while I regroup my forces, or drop the big guns with the Battle Ram and Log, followed closely behind with the Bandit, who acts as cleanup. This deck is quite versatile, but again, requires patience and the ability to read the opponent’s battle strategy in order to counter.

If my Knight or Witch isn’t in my starting lineup, I either play defensive by using the Tombstone or the Bandit or go on an early offense with the Log and Battle Ram. Sometimes, these moves can completely occupy my opponent’s attention, leaving me free to set up my strategy above.

Even winning decks like this one have their weaknesses: in my case, the Baby Dragon (especially at higher levels) can be a troublesome pest. Also, I notice a lot of players in later arenas throwing down the Golem card in the back and waiting until it reaches the bridge before launching a full-on assault. This deck makes it difficult but not impossible to defend against such a push. Again, the Hog Rider is a threat, along with the aforementioned Golem. Their effects can be mitigated by the Tombstone and other support units.


Additional Tips and Tricks

In my current deck, using the Knight as an attacking tank reduces the effectiveness of a lot of popular cards used in the meta, such as Executioner, Valkyrie, Witch, Bandit and Ice, Electro and normal Wizards (all three are my arch-nemeses). This is especially apparent when he’s backed up by the Witch or Bandit or support cards like Minions and spawning buildings like Tombstone. Sometimes a tank that can attack troops can be more effective than a traditional tank, such as the Giant – keep that in mind as you build and develop your deck strategy.

Also, another tip I have is to have faith in your troops and your towers.

Believe in the Heart of the Ca- Oh wait, wrong series. (Image from Kokorononaka)

I’m sure you’ve made the following mistakes as well: dropping several troops to dispatch one enemy attacking your tower, or dropping support troops just as one of your guys takes out a tough unit. While it may look like you’re up in the numbers, you’re actually suffering a net elixir loss (you’re opponent will have more elixir than you do), meaning that if he or she starts a big push, you may not have enough elixir to counter it.

Instead, drop a single unit and let both it and your tower take care of the enemy, unless it’s a big push. If your opponent drops another unit, play something you’re confident will effectively counter it and let it be. It’s a good way to save up your elixir without wasting it.

A caveat to the above is to try and use cards that have a lower elixir cost than then the card your opponent plays. A good example would be if your opponent plays the Minion Horde (5 elixir cost) and you counter with the Fireball (4 elixir cost) or Arrows (3 elixir cost). Thanks to the effective counter, you would now have one or two more elixir than your opponent would. Even the Knight and Bandit in my deck, or other cards such as Mega Minion or Valkyrie, can effectively counter some of the more powerful cards, like the Wizards or Elite Barbarians for instance, and save you elixir while doing so. It’s therefore very important to keep costs in mind while battling in order to maintain a positive net elixir gain.

My final tips for this post are to pay attention and keep a mid-cost, mid-damage spell card in handy. Towards the end of a match, all kinds of craziness will ensue; your opponent will try to make a big push or defend your own push, while you will try to do the same. Somewhere along the way, one of your troops may break through and start wailing on the enemy tower, bringing it down to between 200-300 hitpoints before they die; perfect range to launch a couple of spell cards and end the match. At this point though, you might not be paying attention because you’re focusing all your efforts into defending your own tower. You clear the field using a Fireball or Lightning, hoping that will stop that push only to find that your opponent drops a surprise attack on the other side of the field or uses a Lightning of their own, leaving you unable to counter and costing you the match. You’d take a look at your opponents tower and kick yourself, because you could’ve ended the match thirty seconds ago.

It’s happened to me more than once.

The moral of the story here is to both monitor your opponents remaining health and to have a spell card or two handy to end the match. It makes a big difference having a clutch spell card that can either keep you in the game for the overtime match, or grant your victory.


So, there you have it! With these decks, strategies and tips in your arsenal, you’ll dominate the arena for sure! If you got suggestions on further tips or decks/deck strategies you’d like to share, drop a line in the comments below.

On the next edition, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the Nintendo Switch and I’ll tell you if the hype generated in the last six months since its release has lived up to my expectations of the system.

For now, this is Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

Change, Like Winter, is Coming. Plus, Updates!

Hi guys and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” …Yeah it’s been a while since I posted anything, but to be honest, a lots been happening between the end of May and now. It’s not the perfect time to explain just yet why that’s the case, but I’ll reveal it soon enough. Just know that it’s HUGE, it’s going to affect the blog (among other things in my Quest) and it’s going to make a heck of an impact to my life.

With this, being busy with family and friends visiting for the summer and a basement renovation happening all at the same time, it’s been hard to find time to write, let alone play games. I was lucky in June to nail down time for the blog, writing and other goals on The Quest, but July was a different story. I’m not complaining, but I realized after I wrote my monthly post-mortem and reviewed my journal entries that I’ve really slacked off and made excuses to not do anything Quest related, but that’s gonna change this month. That’s a promise!

Image result for vegeta power up gif

I’m back with a vengeance!

With that, I got some post announcements. Kind of a primer of what to expect next on the blog:


As I was writing the next post for the blog (my continuing playthrough of “Path of Exile”), a website called Playerauctions.com reached out to me after reading my first PoE post and asked me to guest write on their blog! Naturally, I said yes, so the PoE post will be posted on their blog instead of here. I’ll have a link ready when it’s published. Going forward though, my playthrough of the game will still be documented here, so keep an eye out for the next one coming in September!

My 30th birthday was awesome! Not just because I hung out with friends and family, but because I got awesome games and systems for presents! One being a Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild! And my little bro gave me an awesome blast to the past: Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy for the PS4! Needless to say, I’m stoked as hell to write about these, so look out for them in the next few weeks! Also on the docket for games to play: Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 ReMix, Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (wow that’s a mouthful…), a couple of Telltale games (Game of Thrones and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel), Mighty Gunvolt Burst and my newest favourite game, Sonic Mania!

Have Mania, will draw speedy rodents. What’s he pointing at, I wonder?

I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with Clash Royale these days, but I did put together a couple of sweet decks to help advance myself and my clan, the “Tree Gang,” to further greatness! I’ll be sharing those and other Clash-related thoughts very soon

Music-wise, I’ll be writing a follow up from my first post about OC ReMix: this time, it’ll be my top 20 all-time favorite tracks. I’ll also be talking about one of my favorite artists, Mega Ran, and how his music has inspired me to just be me.

Finally, I’ll do some retrospective posts on a few game series that had a further impact on my life and I’m introducing a new feature to the blog: a little something I’d like to call “Espresso Shots.” Curious? Well, you’ll just have to stay tuned to find out!


So, that’s what’s new with me. I apologize again for the delay in posting, but with me on a new schedule and all this upcoming content, I’m sure I’ll be forgiven! (I hope?).

With that, this has been Ryan from“Games with Coffee,” hoping that everyone’s enjoying their summer and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing.